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Meals by Genet
Meals by Genet
Jonathan D./Yelp

The 14 Most Important Jonathan Gold Reviews in Los Angeles, Mapped

These are the ones that are still open after a three-decade career in reviewing restaurants

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Meals by Genet
| Jonathan D./Yelp

It’s impossible to estimate the effect that Jonathan Gold’s words had on LA restaurants. The legendary LA Times and LA Weekly critic died on July 21 from pancreatic cancer and left a long legacy of reviews that helped Angelenos discover great food across the city. Whether the critic would wax poetic on dan dan mien out in the SGV, help a hipster Thai restaurant find its place in West Hollywood, or extol the virtues of the otherworldly cooking at Vespertine, his reviews and recommendations changed the world’s perspective on the LA’s culinary landscape. Here are excerpts from some of the beloved writer’s most important restaurant reviews of places that are currently still in operation, presented from west to east.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Mayura Indian Restaurant

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Jonathan Gold was able to provide context that added unparalleled depth to his reviews:

“Mayura specializes in the cooking of Kerala, the strip of southern India that touches the Arabian Sea, a cosmopolitan region, shaped by a thousand years of spice trading, whose food is influenced by Nayar Hindus, Muslims, Syrian Christians and even an ancient community of Jews. [...] You probably have seen avial, a Kerala-style dish of julienne vegetables sautéed with coconut, which has made it onto many local Indian menus, but Mayura’s version is especially good, luscious but still slightly crunchy, as useful as a condiment as it is satisfying as a main dish.” [LAW]

Night + Market Weho

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The Times critic’s review saved the early Night + Market from closure:

“You’ve probably heard about Yenbamroong’s pad Thai, which is the minimal, barely sweetened version you can never find even in L.A., and the big curried crab, and the occasional special of nam prik ong, a Northern Thai chile sauce you scoop up with fresh vegetables. There is a thick, intense kao soi, the Chiang Mai–style noodles with lime and coconut milk. [...] Have you ever felt as if a restaurant was just waiting for you to walk into it?” [LAW]

Vespertine

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His pick of Vespertine as number one restaurant in LA was rather controversial:

“If you were looking for the oddest dish being served in an American restaurant right now, you should probably start with the fish course at Jordan Kahn’s new Vespertine, a dish that nudges the idea of culinary abstraction dangerously close to the singularity. It doesn’t look like fish, for one thing — it looks rather like an empty bowl, coarse and pebbly inside and out, of a blackness deep enough to suck up all light, your dreams and your soul.” [LAT]

Modern plating at Vespertine. Anne Fishbein

Barn Rau Thai Halal Cuisine

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Los Angeles can credit the Goldster to expanding the average Angeleno’s culinary horizons:

“Barn Rau, you understand, is not a palace of cuisine. Instead of the kinds of sophisticated curries and rice salads you find at a Southern Thai restaurant like Jitlada, you find deep-fried cocktail franks wrapped in wonton wrappers, things like prik king and panang you may not have tasted since the 1980s, and a Thai version of Chinese hot-and-sour soup. Jitlada slashes the skin of a sea bass, rubs it with turmeric and chile, and fries it until the skin shatters like glass. Barn Rau’s trout is deboned and cooked to the kind of crunch you may associate with crumbling Michigan roadhouses.” [LAW]

Meals By Genet

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His reviews had the ability to transform once unheard of restaurants to local legends:

“And at the center of almost all of the platters on the tables — as if by a kind of gravitational pull — is Agonafer’s doro wot, the intense, long-cooked, chile-spiked chicken stew that is so intrinsic to Ethiopian cuisine that, says Agonafer, in the arranged marriages that are still commonplace in her native country, ‘the guy, before he even looks at you, he tastes the doro wot: It’s that important.’” [LAT]

Soban Restaurant

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Few Koreans had the same knowledge of Korean cuisine as Jonathan Gold:

“Then the crab came out of the kitchen, two neatly bisected blue crabs, not transformed by rice wine, as is the norm, but by what seemed to be a soy-tinged distillation of the animal’s juices, crabbier than the crab itself. When you sucked at a leg, the flesh pulled cleanly away from the shell, firm but not cooked, briny and sweet. The crab was nearly glazed with big clumps of roe. The carapace brimmed with musky juice — you spoon hot rice into the shell and eat it. The best single dish in L.A.? Hard to say. But a reason to keep Soban on speed dial.” [LAW]

Soban Banchan

He was a champion for low key strip mall gems:

Noorook tastes like nothing I have ever come across. But it does taste like the future. And whether the future it points to might be idyllic or dystopian, one of utopian bliss or one of nutrislime cultivated in jars when the radiation forces us all into underground caves, I am not prepared to say. But I do know that I like this noorook. I have ordered it every time I have been to Baroo. I recommend that you do the same.” [LAT]

Baroo Dish 1 Wonho Frank Lee

Jitlada Restaurant

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In a tribute to Jitlada’s Tui Sungkamee, the Goldster was able to relay the profound effect the local chef had on teaching Angelenos about regional Thai cooking:

“You could play it safe with curried mussels and the crunchy salad made with fried morning glory, but you will have missed a bit of the wildness in Suthiporn “Tui” Sungkamee’s cooking. On the other hand, curried fish kidneys and fried silkworms with chile may not be your jam — but if you try to meet Jitlada halfway, you need never be bored.” [LAT]

Sapp Coffee Shop

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No one could wax poetic about organ soup quite like Gold:

“Thai Town’s boat-noodle wars show no signs of abating, and there may be no end of Thai cafés in the neighborhood claiming to serve the best, the most authentic version, but the homely virtues of Sapp become more apparent by the year. Sapp’s boat noodles are magnificent: murky, organ-rich beef soup amplified with shrieking chile heat, thickened with blood, the tartness of lime juice locked in muscular poise with the brawny muskiness of the broth. Sapp may be the best lunchroom in Hollywood, crowded at noon not with revelers but with people who have come to Thai Town to shop and eat the boat noodles, the grilled chicken and the bright-green “jade” noodles tossed with bits of Chinese barbecue.” [LAW]

Guelaguetza Restaurante

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Restaurants are now considered icons have J. Gold to thank for spreading their gospels:

“But Guelaguetza is one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the country — when you’re in the mood for shared botana platters, you can get vast piles of white Oaxacan cheese served with lard-soaked memelas, the giant Oaxacan pizzas called clayudas, heaps of fried empanadas, or even a platter with chicken, bowls of four different moles, and the fresh tortillas to eat them with.” [LAW]

El Parian Restaurant

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No corner of the city was untouched by Jonathan Gold, who had locals crawling throughout the city to try everything from the best xiao long bao to goat birria:

“The day I got back to Los Angeles, I went to El Parian on Pico, to try the birria while the taste of 9 Esquinas lingered on my tongue, to see if what I had once called the single best Mexican dish in L.A. measured up to the best of Guadalajara. It came pretty close. The tortillas were thick and fresh; the chile-smeared rib meat was crisp on its bones. The broth sang with garlic and spice but mostly with a strong, goaty essence, a barnyard smack that could as well have come from the Jalisco mountains instead of from a restaurant a few blocks from the convention center. It tasted of Guadalajara. And of home.” [LAW]

Mariscos Jalisco

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The critic would put tens of thousands of miles annually on his iconic truck to hunt down what are now largely considered some of the city’s best tacos:

“The truck is parked in its usual spot, and we acquire paper platesful of the tacos, fried crisp around the edges but pliable toward their bellies, drenched with a fresh chop of tomatoes and onions, with ripe avocado on the side. The taco tastes of salt and corn and clean oil, and then, as you crunch through it, of fresh shrimp. I ask Ortega where he buys his seafood, and as always he changes the subject. I conjecture whether the slight creaminess around the shrimp comes from potatoes, bechamel or cheese, and as always, he smiles and shrugs. They are his secrets. He hopes they will make his daughters rich.” [LAT]

Chengdu Taste

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The critics knowledge of regional Chinese cooking brought droves of locals east to explore the San Gabriel Valley:

“If your experience of Sichuan food is mostly from the Chongqing-style places that have popped up in the San Gabriel Valley in the last few years, you will probably find this Chengdu-style cooking lighter, cleaner and less likely to wake you up in the middle of the night with chile-oil induced nightmares. The food is still quite spicy, flavored with a vast array of fresh, dried, pickled and ground chiles, but the vivid scent of Sichuan peppercorn comes to the front in quite a few dishes, and the overwhelming sensation, even in dishes common to both kinds of restaurants, like the sliced beef in chile oil called fu qi fei pianmapo tofu, or the chile-accented room-temperature noodles called dan dan mian, is of numbness rather than pain.” [LAT]

Beijing Pie House

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic could describe a dish like xian bing with almost lyrical prose:

“But we know why we’re here. And as promised, xian bing are hot when you pick them up, finger-scorchingly hot, like a potato snatched straight from the embers, and the texture, although you sense a faint crackliness, is thin, warm and pliable, like skin. The menu warns you that it’s hot, and the waitress warns you that it’s hot, and the woman at the next table warns you, too, but there is probably nothing that can prepare you for the act of biting into a too-hot xian bing, when a jet of pressurized soup, as volatile as the steam from Old Faithful, arcs over your shoulder and drips harmlessly down the plate glass behind you. Fancy a duel? Let’s specify xian bing at dawn.” [LAW]

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Mayura Indian Restaurant

Jonathan Gold was able to provide context that added unparalleled depth to his reviews:

“Mayura specializes in the cooking of Kerala, the strip of southern India that touches the Arabian Sea, a cosmopolitan region, shaped by a thousand years of spice trading, whose food is influenced by Nayar Hindus, Muslims, Syrian Christians and even an ancient community of Jews. [...] You probably have seen avial, a Kerala-style dish of julienne vegetables sautéed with coconut, which has made it onto many local Indian menus, but Mayura’s version is especially good, luscious but still slightly crunchy, as useful as a condiment as it is satisfying as a main dish.” [LAW]

Night + Market Weho

The Times critic’s review saved the early Night + Market from closure:

“You’ve probably heard about Yenbamroong’s pad Thai, which is the minimal, barely sweetened version you can never find even in L.A., and the big curried crab, and the occasional special of nam prik ong, a Northern Thai chile sauce you scoop up with fresh vegetables. There is a thick, intense kao soi, the Chiang Mai–style noodles with lime and coconut milk. [...] Have you ever felt as if a restaurant was just waiting for you to walk into it?” [LAW]

Vespertine

Modern plating at Vespertine. Anne Fishbein

His pick of Vespertine as number one restaurant in LA was rather controversial:

“If you were looking for the oddest dish being served in an American restaurant right now, you should probably start with the fish course at Jordan Kahn’s new Vespertine, a dish that nudges the idea of culinary abstraction dangerously close to the singularity. It doesn’t look like fish, for one thing — it looks rather like an empty bowl, coarse and pebbly inside and out, of a blackness deep enough to suck up all light, your dreams and your soul.” [LAT]

Modern plating at Vespertine. Anne Fishbein

Barn Rau Thai Halal Cuisine

Los Angeles can credit the Goldster to expanding the average Angeleno’s culinary horizons:

“Barn Rau, you understand, is not a palace of cuisine. Instead of the kinds of sophisticated curries and rice salads you find at a Southern Thai restaurant like Jitlada, you find deep-fried cocktail franks wrapped in wonton wrappers, things like prik king and panang you may not have tasted since the 1980s, and a Thai version of Chinese hot-and-sour soup. Jitlada slashes the skin of a sea bass, rubs it with turmeric and chile, and fries it until the skin shatters like glass. Barn Rau’s trout is deboned and cooked to the kind of crunch you may associate with crumbling Michigan roadhouses.” [LAW]

Meals By Genet

His reviews had the ability to transform once unheard of restaurants to local legends:

“And at the center of almost all of the platters on the tables — as if by a kind of gravitational pull — is Agonafer’s doro wot, the intense, long-cooked, chile-spiked chicken stew that is so intrinsic to Ethiopian cuisine that, says Agonafer, in the arranged marriages that are still commonplace in her native country, ‘the guy, before he even looks at you, he tastes the doro wot: It’s that important.’” [LAT]

Soban Restaurant

Soban Banchan

Few Koreans had the same knowledge of Korean cuisine as Jonathan Gold:

“Then the crab came out of the kitchen, two neatly bisected blue crabs, not transformed by rice wine, as is the norm, but by what seemed to be a soy-tinged distillation of the animal’s juices, crabbier than the crab itself. When you sucked at a leg, the flesh pulled cleanly away from the shell, firm but not cooked, briny and sweet. The crab was nearly glazed with big clumps of roe. The carapace brimmed with musky juice — you spoon hot rice into the shell and eat it. The best single dish in L.A.? Hard to say. But a reason to keep Soban on speed dial.” [LAW]

Soban Banchan

Baroo

Baroo Dish 1 Wonho Frank Lee

He was a champion for low key strip mall gems:

Noorook tastes like nothing I have ever come across. But it does taste like the future. And whether the future it points to might be idyllic or dystopian, one of utopian bliss or one of nutrislime cultivated in jars when the radiation forces us all into underground caves, I am not prepared to say. But I do know that I like this noorook. I have ordered it every time I have been to Baroo. I recommend that you do the same.” [LAT]

Baroo Dish 1 Wonho Frank Lee

Jitlada Restaurant

In a tribute to Jitlada’s Tui Sungkamee, the Goldster was able to relay the profound effect the local chef had on teaching Angelenos about regional Thai cooking:

“You could play it safe with curried mussels and the crunchy salad made with fried morning glory, but you will have missed a bit of the wildness in Suthiporn “Tui” Sungkamee’s cooking. On the other hand, curried fish kidneys and fried silkworms with chile may not be your jam — but if you try to meet Jitlada halfway, you need never be bored.” [LAT]

Sapp Coffee Shop

No one could wax poetic about organ soup quite like Gold:

“Thai Town’s boat-noodle wars show no signs of abating, and there may be no end of Thai cafés in the neighborhood claiming to serve the best, the most authentic version, but the homely virtues of Sapp become more apparent by the year. Sapp’s boat noodles are magnificent: murky, organ-rich beef soup amplified with shrieking chile heat, thickened with blood, the tartness of lime juice locked in muscular poise with the brawny muskiness of the broth. Sapp may be the best lunchroom in Hollywood, crowded at noon not with revelers but with people who have come to Thai Town to shop and eat the boat noodles, the grilled chicken and the bright-green “jade” noodles tossed with bits of Chinese barbecue.” [LAW]

Guelaguetza Restaurante

Restaurants are now considered icons have J. Gold to thank for spreading their gospels:

“But Guelaguetza is one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the country — when you’re in the mood for shared botana platters, you can get vast piles of white Oaxacan cheese served with lard-soaked memelas, the giant Oaxacan pizzas called clayudas, heaps of fried empanadas, or even a platter with chicken, bowls of four different moles, and the fresh tortillas to eat them with.” [LAW]

El Parian Restaurant

No corner of the city was untouched by Jonathan Gold, who had locals crawling throughout the city to try everything from the best xiao long bao to goat birria:

“The day I got back to Los Angeles, I went to El Parian on Pico, to try the birria while the taste of 9 Esquinas lingered on my tongue, to see if what I had once called the single best Mexican dish in L.A. measured up to the best of Guadalajara. It came pretty close. The tortillas were thick and fresh; the chile-smeared rib meat was crisp on its bones. The broth sang with garlic and spice but mostly with a strong, goaty essence, a barnyard smack that could as well have come from the Jalisco mountains instead of from a restaurant a few blocks from the convention center. It tasted of Guadalajara. And of home.” [LAW]

Mariscos Jalisco

The critic would put tens of thousands of miles annually on his iconic truck to hunt down what are now largely considered some of the city’s best tacos:

“The truck is parked in its usual spot, and we acquire paper platesful of the tacos, fried crisp around the edges but pliable toward their bellies, drenched with a fresh chop of tomatoes and onions, with ripe avocado on the side. The taco tastes of salt and corn and clean oil, and then, as you crunch through it, of fresh shrimp. I ask Ortega where he buys his seafood, and as always he changes the subject. I conjecture whether the slight creaminess around the shrimp comes from potatoes, bechamel or cheese, and as always, he smiles and shrugs. They are his secrets. He hopes they will make his daughters rich.” [LAT]

Chengdu Taste

The critics knowledge of regional Chinese cooking brought droves of locals east to explore the San Gabriel Valley:

“If your experience of Sichuan food is mostly from the Chongqing-style places that have popped up in the San Gabriel Valley in the last few years, you will probably find this Chengdu-style cooking lighter, cleaner and less likely to wake you up in the middle of the night with chile-oil induced nightmares. The food is still quite spicy, flavored with a vast array of fresh, dried, pickled and ground chiles, but the vivid scent of Sichuan peppercorn comes to the front in quite a few dishes, and the overwhelming sensation, even in dishes common to both kinds of restaurants, like the sliced beef in chile oil called fu qi fei pianmapo tofu, or the chile-accented room-temperature noodles called dan dan mian, is of numbness rather than pain.” [LAT]

Beijing Pie House

The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic could describe a dish like xian bing with almost lyrical prose:

“But we know why we’re here. And as promised, xian bing are hot when you pick them up, finger-scorchingly hot, like a potato snatched straight from the embers, and the texture, although you sense a faint crackliness, is thin, warm and pliable, like skin. The menu warns you that it’s hot, and the waitress warns you that it’s hot, and the woman at the next table warns you, too, but there is probably nothing that can prepare you for the act of biting into a too-hot xian bing, when a jet of pressurized soup, as volatile as the steam from Old Faithful, arcs over your shoulder and drips harmlessly down the plate glass behind you. Fancy a duel? Let’s specify xian bing at dawn.” [LAW]

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